Tim Key interview: A slut in the bedroom

We get into bed with the Edinburgh Comedy Award award-winning poet ahead of his new show, ‘Single White Slut’

© Rob Greig

Tim Key is sat on a bed, wearing a denim jumpsuit, surrounded by tiny bits of porn. This is 
a fairly standard day for a 37-year-old comedian who reads aloud his beautifully odd, pithy poems written on the backs of smutty playing cards.

We’re at My Hotel in Bloomsbury, and I’ve got two hours with Key in a fancy hotel suite. Before you get any ideas, it’s all entirely innocent: we’re here to discuss his new live show ‘Single White Slut’, which features a great big bed on stage. It’s not the first time Key’s used furniture (or household appliances) in his shows. His previous show, ‘Masterslut’, featured a deeply-filled bath, and in 2009’s ‘The Slutcracker’ (have you guessed the title theme yet?) the comic precariously clambered on 
to a massive fridge-freezer.

‘The Slutcracker’ won the Edinburgh Comedy Award that year, and since then Key’s fanbase has swelled hugely. ‘Single White Slut’ will play to over 6,500 people in London this month, all thanks to 
an enthusiastic, loyal following and 
a little push from Charlie Brooker on his ‘Wipe’ series. Oh, and being cast as the sidekick of one of the greatest comedy characters ever created…

You were a fan of Alan Partridge before you got the part as Sidekick Simon. How did it feel to join North Norfolk Digital radio team?
‘It was really overwhelming. It’s 
a strange part of my life, really, 
that sometimes I get an email going, “Do you want to be Alan Partridge’s sidekick for a bit?” Those are very quick emails to reply to.’

Is it nerve-racking?
‘There’s a lot at stake. I don’t want to be the guy that makes the whole of Alan Partridge sort of, well, fucked. And there are times where it gets quite intense. There’s a bit in one episode of “Mid Morning Matters” where he really yells at me, and 
I think that did slightly crumple me for a moment: I was being shouted at by Alan Partridge! At times I can look straight into his eyes and Steve Coogan has disappeared.’

You’ve popped up in other films too, like Richard Ayoade’s latest, ‘The Double’. Would you like to make your own movie one day?
‘Yep, I would, yeah.’

Have you written a movie yet?
‘No. That’s a good point. No, I haven’t.’

Well, that’s probably where you should start.
‘Yes, I should start by you telling me 
I haven’t done it. Me and a guy called J Van Tulleken made a short film last year, called “Anthony”. He’s all over the place, but he’s very talented.’

Is it finished yet?
‘It’s always nearly finished. It’s been finished a few times. He’s based in New York, and he’s just come back to London to finish it again. So he’ll do a bit more finishing, and then it’ll be ready.’

Is there anything else you haven’t achieved yet that you’d like to?
‘Loads, it’s just summoning the skills. I’d like to write a play, and I’d like to write a sitcom, but these things take a lot of application. 
It would be an enormous feeling of achievement if I managed to do that, but I think it speaks volumes that I’ve written lots of poems. Weirdly, it’s much easier to write 
a poem than a film.’

Speaking of your poems, what can you tell us about the new live show?
‘It’s a mixture of poetry and general talking… and that’s about as much I can say. I touch on owls, I touch on sleep, I discuss audio equipment, I talk a little bit about India. Oh, there’s a bed in it! Which is by my side. Because I don’t think I’m at 
a stage in my career, yet, where 
I can do an hour of material without 
a large domestic prop.’

It has become a recurring theme…
‘Yeah, it’s by-numbers stuff [laughs]. I think 

I just need that security of having something to fall back on.’

Literally.
‘Yes, it’s good to know that, if I’m unhappy with any aspect of the show, I can just go to bed. I enjoy doing my shows and I like my stuff, but there’s a fine line between that and just picking an object and standing next to it.’

Your shows are very ambitious, mixing in theatrical elements. Have you had to abandon any ideas because they’re too difficult?
‘As you come up with an idea, it’s pretty clear whether or not it’s possible to try. If it involves spending £100,000 and everyone has to have oxygen masks, then you can rule it out straight away. With the bath show [‘Masterslut’], there were periods where I was performing work-in-progress gigs and I didn’t have a bath on stage, so I was just doing a lot of previews where I was talking about baths. It was pretty inexplicable for the audience! If I learned anything 
from that show, it’s that I spent 
18 months being a weird bath pervert. But, you know, you move on. Now I’m a weird bed pervert.’

Read Tim Key’s column about being interviewed by Time Out at The Independent

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